Asian American Adolescents Want To Talk To Us About Sex

(Photo Credit: iStock)
(Photo Credit: iStock)

A study that describes itself as the first to “specifically examine Asian American adolescents’ beliefs regarding discussions of sexual health between health care providers and Asian American adolescents” reports that Asian American youth have a lot of opinions about sex. Specifically, young Asian Americans stress that inadequate communication between themselves and their parents and healthcare providers compromises their access to adequate sexual education.

Researchers interviewed twenty young Asian Americans between 14 and 18 years old (median age was 16.7), with an even split between self-identified male and female respondents. Interviewees included Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino, Thai, Korean and Laotian American teenagers mostly born in the United States.

In talking with these Asian American young people, investigators learned that many were dissatisfied with their own education on sexual health, and were motivated to learn more. Unfortunately, however, most of the adolescents expressed that their sources of knowledge on sex were limited: only 40% reported having had any conversation with a parent about sexual health. More shockingly, only 15% had ever discussed sexually transmitted diseases with a healthcare provider, and only 5% had ever talked to their doctors about sex, contraception, or pregnancy.

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I’m in the 78%: Asian Americans and Reproductive Choice


Wednesday, January 22, 2014, marked the 41st anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which established a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices — including abortion — under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Yet, over forty years later, abortion and other reproductive health policies that protect women’s rights continue to be under attack by the Republican Right. Yesterday’s anniversary of Roe was marked by anti-abortion rallies throughout the country, including thousands of pro-life activists who descended onto Washington D.C.’s National Mall. Meanwhile, the Republican Party is debating new guidelines under its national re-branding efforts that would encourage or even require pro-life party members to be more vocal in their anti-abortion stances. These developments predict escalating rhetoric over women’s reproductive health in the coming years; and this growing polarization is only likely to further hinder women’s access to reproductive freedom.

In some studies, Asian Americans women suffer among the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases; in one, 13.5% of Asian American women in 2001  reported a sexually transmitted infection (STI) compared to 8.3% of White women, and were four times more likely than Asian American men to report an STI. Furthermore, in 2000, 35% of Asian American pregnancies ended in abortion, compared to only 18% of pregnancies among White women. These rates occur despite some studies showing relatively high condom use among Asian American youth; some scientists have argued that despite these findings, cultural stigmas against conversations on sexual topics hinder a comprehensive sexual education among young Asian Americans, leading to gaps in reproductive and sexual health knowledge that can result in high rates of STDs (some that often go unreported) and unplanned pregnancies.

Taken together, these data clearly indicate that reproductive health is a critical, if woefully under-discussed, concern for Asian American women. Furthermore, any effort to target public policies that promote reproductive health access will impact women in our community.

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